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In pictures: Kalasha community bids farewell to 2019 with 15-day-long Chaumos festival

The event signifies the end of the current year and welcomes the beginning of a new one.
Updated Dec 23, 2019 03:37pm

Nestled in the mountainous Chitral valley, the Kalasha community who are the custodians of an ancient culture, bid farewell to the outgoing year with a vibrant festival which concluded on Sunday — the day of the winter solstice.

The 15-day long cultural and religious festival was marked by song, dance and games, as well as the observation of various ceremonies.

A view of the Kalasha valley where tourists are seen gathering for the day's festivities.
A view of the Kalasha valley where tourists are seen gathering for the day's festivities.

A close up of a group of tourists and locals.
A close up of a group of tourists and locals.

The event, known as the Chaumos festival, marks the last religious occasion observed by the tribe this year. It signifies the end of the current year and welcomes the beginning of a new one.

This year, the Shekhanda area was opened for the first time to tourists where the sport of Buzkashi was played.

The sport of Buzkashi being played by the Kalasha community members.
The sport of Buzkashi being played by the Kalasha community members.

The sport involves horse-mounted players attempting to make a goal with a goat carcass.
The sport involves horse-mounted players attempting to make a goal with a goat carcass.

Players wrestle to obtain possession of the goat carcass and reach the goal.
Players wrestle to obtain possession of the goat carcass and reach the goal.

A player gains possession of a carcass.
A player gains possession of a carcass.

Part of the fortnight's festivities included marriage ceremonies of numerous couples.

On Sunday morning, the religious ceremony of 'Lawak Bayak' was observed followed by a fox hunt in the valley's Batrik area. The discovery of the fox after a long search was welcomed by all as it is considered a sign of good fortune for the upcoming year.

The last ceremony of the festival was held in Barun where in the community hall people formed a circle and with their arms hooked into one another, danced to the area's popular folk music and sang songs.

Members of the community celebrating by singing songs and dancing to folk music.
Members of the community celebrating by singing songs and dancing to folk music.

Song competitions between groups of men and women also kept the atmosphere charged and lively.

Meanwhile, the elders narrated stories of the tribes feats of bravery to the younger generation.

An elder member of the community speaks to a child.
An elder member of the community speaks to a child.

Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Karina, a girl from Bumburate village of the Kalasha valley, said that she had a wonderful time at the festival which she found to be very "well-organised".

"The great thing is, we had even more foreign tourists than those from within the country. Those who had come from abroad showed a lot of appreciation for our culture.

"We roamed around the entire village, met our relatives and friends, danced and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest," she said.

Read: The last of the Kalasha

Another participant, also hailing from the valley, expressed joy that the region had seen an uptick in tourism.

"Our young generation is also actively seeking ways to promote tourism. We are opening hotels and rest houses here.

This is a peaceful place. There are no security issues of any sort here," he said.

A view of a rustic house in the village.
A view of a rustic house in the village.

A distant shot capturing a Kalasha village nestled in the mountains.
A distant shot capturing a Kalasha village nestled in the mountains.

The residents of the area complained of the lack of participation of any government representative during the festival. The district's deputy commissioner and district police officer were in attendance.

The locals also complained of the dilapidated road infrastructure which causes immense difficulties to not only the residents but the visiting tourists, both of whom end up sacrificing a lot of time to traverse small distances.


All photos courtesy the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Department.